The Rattrap - Summary

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The Rattrap

The Rattrap is a short story written by Selma Lagerlöf about a man who lives a downtrodden life as a vagabond and poor rattrap seller. He looks at the world through spectacles of cynicism and misery because of the situation in which he finds himself. He thinks of the world as a rat trap, where we are pulled in by the rat trap of materialistic things. In the story, he resorts to petty thievery and selling rat traps to sustain himself. However, this is not enough, as he still leads an impoverished life. 

In summary of The Rattrap, it is the story of a man who realises that true happiness is found from the inside, through love, respect and appreciation, and not from materialistic things.

The Rattrap Summary Class 12

The Rattrap class 12 English lesson begins by introducing the rattrap seller who wanders, collecting junk from here and there to put together and turn into functional rat traps. One day, a stranger whose cottage door he knocks on allows him to stay the night. The man served the rat trap seller porridge with a pipe of tobacco, and they played games. The host explained that he worked at an ironworks factory earlier, but now his only source of income was his cow. He showed his guest the thirty kronor he had earned the previous month that he hung in a pouch by the window of his cottage.

The rat trap seller goes about his way when his host leaves in the morning to tend to his cow. However, the rat trap seller returns to steal the money in the pouch by breaking the window a little while later. After this, he stumbles through the forest, avoiding the highway to be on the safe side, all the while thinking about how he allowed himself to fall into the world’s rat trap of materialistic things like money (the thirty kronor he stole). 

He eventually lies down on the ground, which was extremely cold because the story is set in late December. On top of this, his clothes were mostly rags, so it was even colder for him. However, as he laid his head down, he heard the sound of the iron mill nearby and followed it. When he arrived, people were sitting by the warmth of the furnace. No one bothered to object to his being there, so he sat with them.

The owner of the mill came by in the meantime to do his evening rounds, and upon seeing the tramp, he mistook him for an old comrade, Nils Olof. The tramp had a beard and scraggly hair, so it was easy to mistake him for other people. The tramp did not deny this, thinking he would get some more money if he went with it. However, when the owner invited him to the manor, he declined, out of what the owner thought was an embarrassment. Soon after, the owner’s daughter came to attempt to bring the tramp to the house in the name of Christmas Eve, and he had to oblige.

At the manor, the rat trap seller was given a bath, a haircut, a shave and fresh clothes in the hope that his embarrassment coming from his condition would also wash off with his filth. However, when he went into the dining room, the ironmaster immediately realised that the tramp was not Nils Olof! He was furious and asked the man to leave immediately lest he calls the sheriff. The tramp explained his theory about the world being a rat trap, so he was excused. The daughter had her father to allow him to stay, that the man looked like he needed a hearty meal and some sleep.

At the Christmas mass, while the tramp still slept, the family found out about the stolen money. At returning to the manor, the rat trap seller had already gone on his way. However, he did leave behind a Christmas present for the daughter - the thirty kronor to return to the man in the cottage by the roadside, as written by him in a letter with it; Because he was treated with respect, he returned the respect.

Moral of the Story

In the summary of The Rattrap, we can understand that when one is given the respect they deserve, they live up to it, too. It is love, compassion, understanding and respect that makes life worth living, and not materialistic things such as riches, fame and objects.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. Why is the Title of the Short Story ‘The Rattrap’?

Ans: The story ‘The Rattrap’ is about a tramp who sells rat traps, which he makes with junk he finds, for a living, and he lives in so much impoverishment that his worldview has become cynical, too. The protagonist, through his lens of cynicism, looks at the world as a rat trap, where materialistic things pull us into it and trap us. The story describes his own experience getting pulled into the rat trap of life, and also about how he got out of it, thus the name of the short story is entitled ‘The Rattrap.’

Q2. What is the Moral of the Story ‘The Rattrap’?

Ans: The Rattrap summary in a few words is the story of a rat trap seller who survives through petty thieveries, such as stealing the hard-earned thirty kronor of the man who sheltered him for a night and by selling rat traps to people. Towards the end of the story, the writer shows a change in the rat trap summary seller’s morality, as a result of being treated with respect. The moral of The Rattrap class 12 is that it is important to show others love, kindness and respect because it changes their lives in ways we cannot imagine.